Old-School Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya


From Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana by Donald Link, Clarkson Potter

In my opinion, there are two types of jambalaya: Cajun and Creole. The main difference is that, in the Creole version, the rice is cooked in a tomatoey sauce, and the recipe might include shrimp along with meat and sausage.

The Cajun approach is simpler and more rustic. I prefer the way the chicken and sausage flavor blend into the rice, creating a dish with a robust meaty flavor. Searing and caramelizing the meat and onions develops colors and deeply browned flavors. Reducing the chicken broth adds that unique saltiness that you just can’t achieve by adding salt. I call it the MSG effect.

Just about every funeral I’ve been to has had some version of this style of jambalaya, usually served in a tin roasting pan with aluminum foil on top. This dish becomes even more flavorful after it sits for a while, and it’s delicious at room temperature.

Be sure to add the vegetable trimmings for the chicken broth.

1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chicken, roasted
2 medium onions, 1 quartered, 1 diced small
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound smoked sausage, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
2 small jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1 bunch scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
3 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Donnie’s Spice Mix
2 teaspoons salt
5 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed

Donnie’s Spice Mix:
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder

1. Pick all the meat from the chicken (discard skin) and use your hands to shred it into pieces, or chop into medium pieces, as you prefer. Save all the juice and fat from the roasting pan (or container) as well and set aside; refrigerate chicken until needed.

2. Place the carcass, quartered onion, and vegetable trimmings into a large pot to make broth. Add 10 cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 1 hour. Strain the broth, and discard solids. You should have about 6 cups.

3. Heat the oil in a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, and add the sausage. Sear until the sausage starts to color. Parts of the sausage will begin to stick to the pan. When there is a good coating stuck to the pan, pour in 1/4 cup chicken broth, and scrape it loose. Let this cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the sausage to a plate, and set aside.

4. Return the pan to the heat, and add the butter. When it melts, add the diced onion, and cook about 10 minutes, until a nice deep brown color. About halfway through, the onion should start to stick to the pan; deglaze with 1/4 cup chicken broth, and let this reduce until the skillet is dry (or au sec, as they say in French kitchens). When the onion starts to stick again, add 1/2 cup broth; when this is almost gone, add the bell peppers, jalapeños, scallions, celery, garlic, spice mix, salt, bay leaves, oregano, and tomato paste. Cook the vegetables for 10 minutes, stirring often, until they start to stick to the skillet. Deglaze with another 1/4 cup broth and reduce again until dry, then add the shredded chicken, 1 cup broth, and the juices from the chicken, and reduce again by half.

5. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a heavy-bottomed pot, and add the rice and the remaining 4 cups broth. You want this mixture to have plenty of room, so the rice will cook more evenly. Cook, covered, over low heat for 40 minutes.

6. Remove pot from the heat, and keep covered for 10 minutes more. If the rice seems unevenly cooked, leave this lid on a little longer, and it will even out. When jambalaya is done, transfer to a casserole dish and serve. (If you leave it in the pot, it will overcook.)

Serves 6 to 8.